Billy Andrade receives Payne Stewart Award, friend Brad Faxon shows support
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Written by Helen Ross @helen_pgatour
Editor’s note: Billy Andrade received the Payne Stewart Award during a ceremony on Tuesday night in Atlanta during the week of the TOUR Championship.
Brad Faxon kept hearing about what a good putter Billy Andrade was.
Faxon was 14, three years older than Andrade. The two accomplished junior golfers grew up in small towns in Rhode Island less than 10 miles from each other so it was only a matter of time before their paths would cross.
When they finally did, Faxon couldn’t get over the 11-year-old’s flat stick. It was an old Tommy Armour blade putter with a gauze tape grip that was mangled and dirty. The shaft was so short, the head of the putter didn’t peek out of the top of Andrade’s tiny golf bag.
“And he was so small,” Faxon recalls. “Plus, the putter was so short. He had to crouch over. He kind of looked like a little tiny Jack Nicklaus, he was bent over so much.”
Oh, and there was the hair. Andrade had “hair all over the place,” Faxon says. “And we’re like, wow, who is this kid?”
That kid is 58 now. Faxon’s 61. The two have been friends ever since, defying the odds and making their way first to the PGA TOUR and then the PGA TOUR Champions, as well as forming a joint charitable foundation and staging the highly successful CVS Health Charity Classic along the way.
On Tuesday night, Faxon was part of the program at a reception in Atlanta as Andrade received the PGA TOUR’s Payne Stewart Award presented by the Southern Company. The award is given annually to a golfer who exemplifies Stewart’s values of character, charitable efforts, and sportsmanship.
Stewart, who is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, died tragically in a plane crash on the Monday of the 1999 TOUR Championship. Faxon, who won the prestigious award in 2005, sees a lot of the high-spirited Stewart in his long-time friend with such a “big personality.”
“Smart (aleck) – first of all,” Faxon says, laughing. “He’s devilish in a good way. He makes you smile. I mean, you rarely see an unhappy Billy Andrade. And it’s almost like when you saw Payne; Payne was trying to size you up and think about what he was going to say to make you feel uncomfortable. Payne had a way about him that was so good.
“The players liked Payne – he was as popular off the course as he was on, and I think Billy’s the same way.”
Faxon realized that early on in their friendship. Both players picked up their first PGA TOUR victories in 1991 – Andrade winning consecutive events in June, his first two of four career titles, and Faxon, “spurred on” by his friend’s success, capturing the Buick Open title in August.
“So, I was like, ohhh, Billy can win – and that's gonna help me win,” Faxon says. “And I won later that year… Billy and (his wife) Jody drove back. They were driving to the airport when they heard I got in a playoff, and they came back to celebrate. That meant a lot.”
Shortly afterwards, the two men and their wives held a celebrity golf tournament for the Meeting Street School in Providence, Rhode Island, attended by his older brother, who had special needs.
“We raised a bunch of money for them, and it got so big that we said, well, if we can raise that kind of money on our first try, we could raise a lot more money and give the money to different charities rather than just one,” Faxon recalls, giving credit to Andrade’s wife for the idea.
And so, the Billy Andrade/Brad Faxon Charities for Children, Inc., was born. Through various efforts, including the CVS Health Charity Classic, it has generated more than $30 million and in 2021 benefitted 61 different charities in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In many ways, the success of the foundation served as a blueprint for other like-minded TOUR players to create their own charitable initiatives.
“Billy’s achieved a lot off the golf course,” Faxon says. “I would say when people do charitable events, some people do it to look good and because they’re supposed to. But it’s in Billy’s heart. It’s in Billy’s blood. I mean, he lives for it.”
The Payne Stewart Award will enable Andrade to do even more charitable work. It comes with a $500,000 grant made possible by Southern Company.
Of that total, the Stewart Family Foundation and the Payne Stewart Memorial will receive $100,000 each. Andrade is donating the other $300,000 to several different charities, including the East Lake Foundation, which he also supports with 2017 Payne Stewart Award winner Stewart Cink by holding a golf tournament each May.
And not surprisingly, the Andrade family’s GracieCam Foundation is also matching the $300,000.
Faxon admits it’s rather amazing to look back and consider that he and Andrade both carved out long and successful careers at the highest level of professional golf – particularly considering Rhode Island only has about 1 million people in the entire state. That said, Newport (R.I.) Country Club was one of the five founding members of the USGA, and Dana Quigley, who played on the PGA TOUR, gave them hope.
While they competed against each other in junior golf – “nothing seemed to slow him down,” Faxon says of Andrade -- their friendship was really cemented when both were in college and traveled together playing amateur golf. Andrade went to Wake Forest on the Arnold Palmer Scholarship while Faxon was a two-time All-America at Furman.
One road trip from Rhode Island to Florida over the holidays in Faxon’s 1975 Grandville Pontiac convertible was particularly memorable.
“It started leaking on the way down to Florida,” Faxon recalls. “We were trying to alternate and sleep while the other guy was driving which was very hard to do – especially when we had the impending disaster of the car leaking.
“It was 24 hours straight. We laughed about that. We did so much together. It was so fun.”
Tuesday night was another memory in a long line of them. With many more to come.